Osprey Raptor 14 Hydration Pack Review

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Osprey Raptor 14

My go-to Ergon riding pack for 10 years was getting old. Broken zipper pulls and a few other issues so I started looking around for a replacement. Osprey packs are ubiquitous and I have a great winter backcountry pack from Osprey that has felt right on me since the first day I put it on. So, I checked out the Osprey packs first. Osprey really seems to sweat the details and you get the feeling that their designers are passionate riders who care about how other riders use their packs.

I’m one of those guys who seems to be the ‘rescue’ rider in the group. Not because I have any training or skills but just because I don’t leave anyone behind. I’ve fixed chains and flats for strangers. I’ve bailed out bonking noobs with food. On any but the shortest ride I have 2 tubes and a first aid kit. I wanted a pack big enough for extras and also capable of holding the removable chinguard from my Bell helmet. The Raptor 14 is big enough for all this, plus it compresses down for smaller loads.

Things I like:

  • Zippered pockets on the belt that are ideal for Clif bars and other snacks.
  • Integrated tool roll on the bottom gives easy access to your tools and holds them tight so they aren’t clanking around on a ride.
  • Magnetic attachment for the hydration tube to secure it to your pack. This works great every time and keeps the tube from dangling.
  • Small outer zippered pocket that is ideal for wallet and phone.  And has a clip for keys. Even the little clip has a protrusion on it making it easier to open.
  • Hydration bladder closure. I thought this would be more clumsy than the Camelbak screw-cap closure but the sliding feature is super-repeatable and easy to use. No more leaks like I would get about 1 out of 10 times with the Camelbak. Plus, it’s easier to get excess air out of the bladder before sealing than with the screw cap Camelbak uses.
  • Helmet attachment gizmo that can be used to secure my chinguard.

When I talk about the details one small but impressive one is the clip that secures the zipper for the tool roll. This one ensures that the zipper can’t come open while riding which could leave your tools spread out over your favorite trail.

I’ve just left a month of riding Moab behind with 20 rides while I was there. In that time, I haven’t encountered a single negative to the pack. I’ll do a follow-up review in 6 months or so. If you have an Osprey let me know what you think.

Helmet attachment

Helmet clip is on an adjustable elastic cord

 

Room for chinguard

Easy to attach the chinguard to the outside of the pack

 

Helmet clip and chinguard

Using the helmet clip to secure the chinguard

 

Sunglass pocket

Lined sunglass pocket

 

Magnet

Magnetic clip secures the tube

 

Tool roll

The tool roll holds everything you need and rolls up into the bottom of the pack

 

Zipper clip

Tool roll zipper has this little clip to ensure it doesn’t open during your ride

KS LEV Dropper Post Long-Term Review 

KS post.jpg

I’ve ridden a number of dropper posts since about 2008. From the early days, I’ve sampled the Gravity Dropper, Crank Brothers Joplin, Fox DOSS and ended up buying the Kind Shock LEV in early 2014. For those of you who still haven’t bought a dropper post I’ll say that it’s one of the best upgrades you can make on your bike no matter what kind of bike you are riding – even a hardtail. If you like going fast downhill (or even if you don’t) it will give you more control and confidence. You’ll lower your center of gravity which gives more control in cornering and particularly on steep downhills the dropper will make you feel that you won’t go over the bars. If you’re riding flat to rolling non-technical terrain keep that fixed seatpost but if you are riding anything else and want to have more fun, get a dropper post!

One of my primary considerations whenever I buy bike parts is to get something reliable. Weight and other performance issues are important but always secondary to reliability. If I have to spend too much time fixing something it takes away from my ride time. If you have ever walked a few miles to get back to the trailhead due to a broken part, I guarantee that you won’t be thinking, ‘I’m so glad I saved 50 grams on that part – it failed but it sure is light!’. My experience with Crank Brothers several years ago was with a failed seatpost that wouldn’t return to the top. That pretty much ruined the rest of my ride trying to pedal uphill with a seat 5 inches below the correct climbing height. I knew a few MTB tour guides who were leading multi-day rides and carried a backup seatpost in their packs since they couldn’t fully trust the dropper posts they were running. That wasn’t for me.

So, in 2014 when I was shopping, the consensus was that the Rock Shox Reverb and the KS LEV were the most reliable posts. I tried them both in a shop and settled on the KS. It seemed particularly solid and the shop owner said he had fewer returns for repairs than with the RS post. The Fox DOSS was also out at that time but didn’t have as much of a track record so I wrote that one off.

Installation and Setup:

My bike (Yeti ASR 5C) didn’t allow for internal cable routing but the setup wasn’t really an issue. The external cable routing was clean and has never been a problem. Some early generation dropper posts had cables attached to the moving portion of the post (usually right at the seat mounting) which meant that the cable moved on the bike as you went up and down with the post. This was particularly annoying on the Crank Brothers Joplin as the cable housing would sometimes hit my leg or hang up on the frame somewhere. The LEV had a clean attachment to the top of the fixed portion of the post. The only weak point the shop warned me was the cover over the cable attachment that often fell off during use. The solution was to put a tie-wrap around the cover. Easy solution – but sort of disappointing to get a brand-new post and have to throw a band-aid on it right from the start. But hey – it works.

KS tie wrap.jpg

Tie-wrap band-aid

The post has an air cartridge to move the post. The Schrader valve is on the top of the post and requires you to remove the saddle to adjust the pressure. Sort of a hassle, but I’ve only set the pressure once and haven’t lost any air so I haven’t had to add air all this time.

The seatpost head uses the preferred 2-bolt attachment so adjusting the seat angle is easy and very secure. I’m not a big fan of button head screws as are used on the LEV since the hex size is usually a size smaller than a socket head cap screw. With the socket head cap screw you are less likely to strip out the hex if you are a ham-fisted mechanic. I understand the use of a button head since it is less likely to injure the rider in a crash than a socket head cap screw. So I’m just careful to fully engage the hex key and watch my torque.

KS 2-bolt.jpg

Out of the box there was a bit of side-to-side play (rotation) of the post but it was quite small and not noticeable when riding the bike. It’s more pronounced now than when I got the post but it is still just barely noticeable when riding and doesn’t bother me. I know some people who care a lot about these details so if you are one of those people you might not like it.

On the trail:

One of the key issues with any post is the remote lever design. The ergonomics and feel of the lever are critical. You want the lever to be located in a good position so that access is good – the most critical time to drop the post is just before a technical section and that is the last time you want your hand off the bar trying to activate a lever. The lever shouldn’t require too much force or throw (travel). It should also have enough ‘feel’ so you can detect the release point and know when the post will move. The KS lever meets all the critical criteria. I initially thought it might be a bit small but I’ve come to like it. If you’re running ODI lock-on grips the lever even integrates with the grip. Take off the inside collar and the clamp of the KS lever just slides onto the grip. Nice detail.

KS lever.jpg

Return speed:

Some dropper posts have an adjustment for the speed that the post goes to the up position. The return speed on the LEV is governed only by the initial air pressure setting and the speed has always seemed fine to me. Just fast enough and very consistent.

Reliability:

This post has been pretty much bullet proof. I rode it for 2 1/2 years before the first issue popped up. There was a noticeable clunking and a bit of stickiness when moving up to the top position. I assumed that I would have to send it back for service but I opted for the very simple sealhead service as described here http://blog.artscyclery.com/mountain/ask-a-mechanic-service-and-maintain-your-kind-shock-lev-dropper-post/ This was surprisingly easy and put the post back to like-new condition after just 30 minutes of effort.

Overall:

The LEV is a good post. Reliable and consistent performance and it hasn’t let me down. I’m starting to shop for a new bike and I definitely want a KS post on my next bike.

Wolf Tooth Components Goatlink Review

Goatlink Installed

I have ridden the Wolf Tooth 42 tooth cog for over 2 1/2 years, but I didn’t buy the GoatLink until about a month ago. I was pretty happy with the shifting on my 1X10 setup but I was on the Wolf Tooth site for another reason and had $20 burning a hole in my pocket so I figured I would try the goatlink and report back.

Installation was as easy as they said – actually even easier. They said to allow 30 minutes but if you’re a reasonable mechanic it will only take 15 minutes to install the link and adjust the B-tension screw.

On the bike stand I didn’t notice any difference in the shifting performance but out on the trail the improvement was noticeable. Very little discernible difference on the small cogs but on the large cogs I really noticed a change. Particularly shifting to and from the 3 large cogs was smoother. Shifts were quicker and with fewer skips. The Wolf Tooth and Lindarets sites also say the linkage results in less wear but I can’t comment on that at this point.

With the proliferation of SRAM 1X11 drivetrains at lower price points I imagine that the number of people converting to 1X10 has dropped a lot compared to the early days since you can now buy a complete 1X11 drivetrain at only a little bit more than the cost of converting a 1X10. But if you already have the 1X10 conversion you might consider buying the goatlink. It isn’t absolutely necessary to make the 42 tooth cog work but with it you’ll go from good shifting performance back to what feels like standard Shimano performance so I would say it’s worth the 20 bucks.

Enve RSR Handlebar Long-Term Review

bar

Photo Courtesy of Annoyed Cyclist Photography School

It’s carbon. So it’s light and strong. I’ve been riding these bars for 2 years and they are like new. Realistically, I’ll never break them since they were probably designed for people who get more than 1 foot of air.

They are 740mm wide which is perfect. Unless you like narrower bars. Or wider bars. I just don’t want to bash trees. Because the trees always win.

It has sweep and rise (I’m sure the Enve website has some numbers) and magically my hands land right on the grips. I’m guessing your hands will find the bars, too.

bar-detail

The graphics – white on black

The graphics are understated. When I bought these bars that was cool. Now I’m not so sure – seems like Neon is big right now.

 

Ibis 928 Wheelset Follow-up Review 

Ibis 928 logo and stem

Just a quick update on my Ibis 928 wheelset since the review I posted back in January.

Basically the wheels are as good as I described them back then. Stiff and light and they definitely liven up my hardtail.

I’ve had about 250 miles of trail and road use on them (about 75% on trails) and they are as true and smooth rolling as the day I first put them on. My buddy I bought them from figures he had about 250 miles on them before me so they only have 500 miles so far and I wouldn’t expect to see any issues at this point anyway. My tubeless setup has worked fine – I have to air them up about every week but I’m an electronic-tire-pressure-gauge, get-it-within-1-psi-reading kind of tire geek. I typically run 23 psi front and 24 psi rear (I’m 170 lbs) and I find I’ll lose a couple of psi per week which is similar to my previous setup on Stan’s rims. The hubs are still smooth and aren’t showing any play.

The only issue is a relatively minor one. The presta stems leak very slightly with the valve open. It seals fine after I screw in the valve. I don’t notice this on the stems that are on my Shimano and Stan’s wheels so it’s a bit annoying but just a niggle really. I’ll replace the valve cores at some point to see if that fixes it. And props to Ibis for supplying valve stems with removable cores – it costs them a bit more but it allows you to add sealant through the stem rather than popping a few inches of the bead of the tire from the rim to pour sealant in.

So in summary, it’s been a good upgrade. I have recently seen that some sites are selling the 928 wheelsets for $999 which is really a bargain in the world of carbon wheels. The timing of this discount suggests Ibis is getting ready to release a new rim and the shops are clearing out inventory but that’s just a guess on my part.

If you have $1000 burning a whole in your pocket this is probably the best upgrade you can make for that kind of money.

Ibis 928 Wheelset Review

IBIS_928_L3Qtr_Pair
Picture from: http://www.ibiscycles.com/wheels/

I was lucky enough to pick up a ‘gently used’ Ibis 928 carbon wheelset a few weeks ago from a friend upgrading to the 941 with the wider rim. So I thought it was time for a review.
I’ve been a 29er rider for over 7 years now and, like others, realized that wheel quality has a much bigger impact on 29″ bikes than the 26″ bike I came from. With more rotating weight there is a trade-off between stiffness and weight that is critical to 29er riding bliss. I’ve literally gone from ‘hate it’ to ‘love it’ on a 29er because of rim choice.

Early 29ers had wheels that were just too heavy. Fortunately, Stan’s came out with good tubeless-capable aluminum rims that got the right balance between weight and stiffness. The 355 rim and, with even better lateral stiffness, the Arch rim were key to my early 29er enjoyment.

Like a lot of riders I didn’t really appreciate what ‘stiffness’ meant until I was able to compare different products. My first significant experience with this was trading off between a high-end Aluminum full suspension bike and a Carbon frame bike. The carbon frame bike simply went where I pointed it. The lack or lateral flex meant that front and rear wheels tracked more in a line and I only steered with the front wheel and not the frame.

Sold on Carbon for frames, I jumped when I had the chance to buy the Ibis wheelset for $650 where it would be $1300 new. When you’re paying more for wheels than most people pay for a bike you really don’t want them to disappoint and they didn’t. In fact they were actually better than I imagined.

If your looking for just weight savings the wheels are not all that impressive. I went from the stock Stan’s Arch wheelset to the stock Ibis wheelset and knocked just 170 grams off the bike weight which amounted to an equal front/rear split. Basically the weight reduction for each wheel amounted to an 85 gram savings at the rim exactly as the Stan’s and Ibis specs indicated. Of course rotating weight savings are the holy grail of weight reduction so saving weight at the rim is a big deal.

Where I was even more excited was the ride performance. My first ride was a race-paced 30 mile loop at Fort Ord where most of the trails are fast and flowy with the occasional deeply rutted section – perfect terrain for my Flash29 hardtail. Just a few yards into the ride the bike felt lively and responsive and I felt great pushing it hard and leaving my buddy behind on the first moderate climb. I knew my speed at this point was more about my excitement with the new wheels and I backed off a bit so I could do the full ride. We hit the first twisty descents and I could feel the bike holding it’s line through the turns and when I hit my first deep ruts in the turns I noticed that I didn’t have to fight the front wheel as much to keep things pointed the right way. All-in-all the wheels made me more confident at speed and I was stoked I could actually feel the improvement.

I hope to try the wider 41mm rims sometime soon to see if the promised extra traction is as advertised. I expect that will be the case since Ibis delivered on the promises of the 928’s

Wolf Tooth Cycling Components 1X10 Conversion – Update

42T cog with ano wear
This is my follow-up review after almost 5 months of riding the 1X10 setup I first reviewed here May Review

I’ve only logged 192 miles since I put on the 42T cog and 30T chainring. My Yeti is my trail bike and mostly used for more technical riding and my longer and less technical rides are on my 29er hardtail.

You’ll see in the picture above that the anodize is wearing off the teeth on the rear cog but that’s expected with ‘cosmetic’ anodize and shouldn’t affect the wear rate of the aluminum. If you see a sharp tooth profile where the shifting ramp is, that is stock and not from wear. So I anticipate I’ll get quite a few miles out of this cog. Riding around the Bay Area is mostly dry and dusty until the Winter rains come so I don’t know if I would see more wear in muddy conditions.

The front 30T chainring shows anodize wear also, but a bit less than the rear cog (I imagine because there is no shifting going on at the front).

chainring
Performance during this time has been as good as my first ride. Not a single missed shift or a dropped chain. I didn’t install any kind of chain guard since I wanted to see how the narrow/wide chainring and clutch derailleur worked and it’s been perfect. I ride fairly technical trails on this bike but I don’t spend much time in the air so if you’re doing a lot of big drops and jumps ‘your performance may vary’.

So I consider it a great upgrade. And I would never go back to a multi-chainring drive train for a trailbike – the simplicity and performance of this setup is great.